Ilona Livarski – February 2022

On February 15th 2022, I used my annual volunteering day to work with the National Trust and practice my chainsawing skills. Many employers give their staff volunteer days, and Chiltern Rangers were kind enough to allow me to volunteer with the Chilterns Countryside Team at the National Trust, in order to get some more chainsaw experience. 

However, rather than writing an article about felling some trees and fine tuning my skills, which wouldn’t make much sense to those of you who don’t know how to operate a chainsaw, I thought I would reflect on my thoughts about learning how to learn. 

As a sportswoman, I naturally strive to be the best! However, I’m not only a perfectionist on the sports field… I am a perfectionist in most aspects of my life. Whether that be, being the best Ranger that I can be, or running the best volunteer day that I can, I often strive for perfection. 

Although going into the volunteer day, I was ready and excited to learn, secretly I was hoping I didn’t have to receive too much fine tuning, as I’d hoped I was already good enough.

In reality, not many chainsaw operators are perfect, and not being a professional tree surgeon, I had lots of small things to work on. Reflecting on it now, this was totally ok! I didn’t make any glaring mistakes when felling the trees, and I got them down safely and accurately, so all in all I should have been happy. However, perhaps it was the pouring rain, or the cold weather, but by lunchtime my brain was saturated and I was feeling pretty sad, exhausted and disappointed in my performance. 

I wanted to share how I was feeling on the day, as I think it quite obviously shows how I could have had a better day, had I been more willing to forget my pride and competitiveness, and focused on purely learning. Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t a terrible student on the day – I didn’t actively decide not to take on any feedback given… I just found it quite disheartening and overwhelming to be given so many little pointers. 

So the moral of the story is: perfectionism has it’s value in the right setting, but allow it to go too far and it will negatively impact you. 

That being said, I honestly had a fantastic day with the Chilterns Countryside Team at the National Trust. Although it was a tough day, both mentally and physically, I still really enjoyed myself and am very grateful that they gave up their time to train me! So thank you very much for having me!!